CRITICAL CRIMINOLOGY IN THE TWENTYFIRST CENTURY:
Critique, Irony and the Always Unfinished
"I do not wish to end this account without mentioning a rather amusing episode. Right in the middle of the Third National [Criminology] Conference, taking place in Cambridge in July 1968, a group of seven young social scientists and criminologists, participants of the Conference, met secretly and decided to establish an independent 'National Deviancy Conference' and soon afterwards they duly met in York. At the time, it reminded me a little of naughty schoolboys, playing a nasty game on their stern headmaster. It was not necessary to go 'underground' because we were not in any way opposed to discussing new approaches to the sociology of deviance … Although not invited to their conference in York I asked one of my senior colleagues in the Institute to go there as an observer.
"My attitude was by no means hostile or patronizing. As I stated at the time, movements in ideas, like life in general, often lead to seeming unexpected baffling results. Those were the years of dissent, protest and ferment in the United States with their unmistakable echoes in Britain. They affected not only the ways people acted, but also their thinking on many matters relating to social life and its reinterpretations. But it was also a reaction to some extent inevitable and to some extent misguided of the new generation of British criminologists against what appeared to be the stolid establishment of Criminology as personified by the Cambridge Institute and probably also by its first Director."
(Sir Leon Radzinowicz, 1999, pp.229-30)
Critical criminology is the criminology of late modernity. Its inception was in the late sixties and early seventies at the cusp of change, its inspiration a world where oppressive relationships of class, age, gender and ethnicity became highlighted and evident (in that historical order)and where the pluralism, ambiguity and shift of values heralded a society where migration and human creativity created a diversity of cultures in close propinquity and interaction. In Britain the key academic organisation which provided a theatre for such debates was the National Deviancy Conference (NDC). Here, as Stan Cohen astutely noted, "well before Foucault and a long way from the Left Bank - our little corner of the human sciences was seized by a deconstructionist impulse" (1998, p.101). Indeed the NDC was pivoted around deconstruction and anti-essentialism. It dwelt on the social construction of gender, sexual proclivity, crime, suicide, drugs and mental states whilst fiercely criticising the major discourses of modernity, positivism and classicism, and its institutions, whether it was the prison or the clinic. The NDC was anarchistic and antinomian, set deep in the counterculture of the time. My own involvement in it was initially reluctant to say the least. It was a time when we regarded people with 9 to 5 jobs as complete failures, lived in communes and regarded the "straight" world with complete disdain. I was living in Notting Hill where Pink Floyd played weekly at the local parish hall, Jimi Hendrix was at Middle Earth and there was poetry in the streets. Academic conferences were not exactly where it was at. I was persuaded to go to the first NDC in York in 1968. I remember Mike Brake - later to be well known for his books on youth culture (1980, 1985) saying to me the evening we arrived, "What are we doing here, man? Let's get out quick and get to Leeds where there's much better clubs." We stayed all the same and next day I gave my first academic paper, 'The Role of Police as Amplifiers of Deviancy, Negotiators of Reality and Translators of Fantasy' (1971a). A pretentious title but it still captures for me a constant theme of the way in which powerful forces in society create demons out of illusions which then, through stigma and oppression, take on a reality of their own.
The NDC was hectic, irreverent, transgressive and, above all, fun. It took no notice of disciplinary boundaries, it was as important an arena for the emerging field of cultural studies (Stuart Hall, Mike Featherstone, Paul Willis, Dick Hebdidge, all gave papers), anti-psychiatry (Peter Sedgwick, Jeff Coulter) critical legal theory (Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Sol Picciotto), the sociology of sexualities (Ken Plummer, Mary McIntosh), as it was for the sociology of deviance (see the account in Cohen, 1988; Young, 1998). Perhaps, however, it was the pluralism and social constructionism of deviancy theory that gave it such a pivotal role. There was a frenetic quality to the NDC, there were fourteen conferences held between the end of 1968 and the end of 1973 and papers, articles and books seemed to emerge in an endless stream - exciting and excitable.
Within criminology and the sociology of deviance the adversary was clear. Variously named 'positivism' or 'correctionalism' or 'establishment criminology', it was individualistic in focus, technicist in outlook and minimalist in theory - its aim was the social engineering of the 'maladjusted' individual into the ranks of the consensual and contented society. It was summed up by the title of an emblematic text, Barbara Wootton's Social Science and Pathology, published in 1959, which, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, sought to review the contribution of the social sciences to "the prevention and cure of the social problems associated with unacceptable forms of deviant behaviour" (p.9). The intellectual history of this assault on this rather piecemeal ensemble of ideas, which had its institutional centre at the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge, was to involve two stages (Downes, 1988). The first, immediately preceding the first NDC, was the decade of the sixties during which sociology expanded rapidly within the academy and sociologists turned to the extraordinary flourishing American sociology of deviance, both in its subcultural and interactionist variants. In the US, unlike Britain, a longstanding sociological tradition concerned with crime had been extant throughout the century with Vold, Sutherland, The Chicago School, and Merton - themselves inheritors of late and early twentieth century European sociology. The explanatory project which spurred on the sociological involvement in crime and deviance was the rise in crime for, as David Downes put it: "The appeal of American theory was that it addressed the problem, and seemingly furnished a framework for its resolution, of the persistent rise in official crime rates despite the appearance of both greater affluence and diminishing inequality in the major industrial societies". For, "genetics and psychology were seen as offering little purchase on what were perceived as startling differences in crime rates between societies and within societies over relatively short periods of time." (1988, p.177).
Criminology is, as John Lea (1998) points out, not so much a discipline as a field, its distinctiveness is not its knowledge base but the form of its focus: theories of crime, criminal law and the relation between the two - in this it is a sub-category of the sociology of deviance. It can, and never should be, conceived of as a separate discipline, its categories and processes are social constructs, they have no separate ontological reality. It cannot, therefore, exist separately from social theory as its concerns are inevitably with the nature of social order and disorder. Not only have all of the major social theorists concerned themselves with order, disorder and regulation, but there has been across the century clear links between the great theorists of modernity and the criminological canon. Witness Durkheim, Merton and the anomie theorists; Marx, Engels, Bonger and Marxist criminology; the influence of Simmel and Wirth on the Chicago School and the conflict theorisation of G B Vold; of Schutz and Mead on Becker and labelling theories. Despite this obvious intimacy of intellectual concern, there has been a constant tendency for criminology, particularly in its more practical and administrative manifestations, to cut itself off from grand theory. Such a situation was paramount in Britain in the post-war period and the turn, or should we say reconnection of criminology to sociology was a major first step out of empiricism. The second phase which Downes traces was the foundation of the NDC in 1968 and the ten years that followed it, this took on the new American sociology of deviance and considerably radicalised it. It is this phase which gave rise to the 'new' or 'critical' criminology.
This presented itself as a series of 'ironies' which served to turn establishment criminology on its head.
Critical Criminology in the Subsequent Years
"Leaving aside the existence of … interesting disputes and divisions, it is clear that the new perspective overall has now become established and institutionalised. In the same way initially outrageous art movements (such as Dado and surrealism) eventually became respectable, so too has the new deviance and criminology become part of the accepted order of things. Its practitioners are ensconced in orthodox academic departments, journals, examining boards and publishing companies. No booklist would be complete without one." (Cohen, 1981, p.241)
Thus Stan Cohen talks of the institutionalisation of that which was once iconoclastic. Critical criminology has become a staple of textbooks, its concerns form the basis of secondary school sociology exams, it runs conferences, journals and research programmes. Indeed, in Britain, outside of course Cambridge, the majority of centres which teach criminology are within the rubric of critical criminology.
However, in recent years a drastically different version of the subsequent history of critical criminology, and of criminology in general, has gained currency. We have seen an inkling of this in the introductory quote from Sir Leon Radzinowicz's memoirs with his patronising comments (see Cottee, 2001), which present critical commentary as an amusing interlude before getting back to the business of serious criminology. But the most elaborated presentation of such a revisionist history is that of David Garland in a series of pieces from Punishment and Welfare (1985) to The Culture of Control (2001; see also 1988, 1997, 1999 and with R Sparks, 2000).
Garland sees the history of criminology, proper, as a history of the criminology that emerged around the institutions of control. For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century this was correctionalism - with its stress on individual positivism, and then subsequently what he terms the 'crime control complex' with its emphasis on rational choice and situational control. That is a transition from a modern to a late modern criminology, the first sited in the penal-welfare institutions, the second sited in the institutions and practices of private sector crime prevention. It is the latter which is the predominant theory of today - 'the criminology of everyday life', but there are two other currents - a residuum of correctionalism and a neo-conservative, anti-modernism. Whereas the criminology of everyday life sees the offenders as normal, rational consumers 'just like us', the criminology of the other sees the offender as 'the other'. It is the criminology of everyday which he sees as going with the grain of everyday life - as being more naturalistically true to reality.
"In retrospect, the decade of the 1970s appears as a watershed, in which the intellectual, institutional and political assumptions of modern criminology were challenged, often in the name of a more radical social politics. It was during this decade that there arose a more critical and reflexive style of criminology, and a more explicit questioning of criminology's relation to the state, to criminal justice, and to the disciplinary processes of welfare capitalism. Criminology became, at least for a while, concerned to link its ideas and analyses to the broader themes of social thought and less concerned to be an applied discipline. It became more enamoured of sociological theory and more critical of criminal justice practice. In these years, criminology's centre of gravity shifted a little, becoming more reflexive, more critical, and more theoretical. As it happens, this was a short-lived moment [which] did not last long. Before long, new post-correctional forms of crime control emerged and criminology became immersed in applied questions once again …" (Garland and Sparks, 2000, pp.13-14).
Critical criminology is not then seen as a harbinger of the future but a phase which had its moment in the past. Garland does not deny its influence, but it is muted, indeed academic criminology as a whole is strangely marginalized in this account. Rather his focus is on the 'surfaces' concerned with crime control out of which criminology is seen to emerge as power/knowledge bases in a Foucauldian fashion. Thus the move from positivism to control theory, his major transition, is seen as reflecting the change in the site of crime control, from the penal-welfare system to private crime prevention - both commercial and amongst the population as a whole.
"A movement that initially aimed to enhance prisoners' rights, minimize imprisonment, restrict state power, and end predictive restraint, ultimately ushered in policies that did quote the opposite. How is this strange turn of events to be explained? …
"Somehow the anti-correctionalist movement opened the way for a set of changes it could not envisage and could not control …
"The processes that undermined the credibility of penal-welfarism were not the same as the ones that subsequently unravelled it. The original damage to the structure came about in the early 1970s as a result of radical and reactionary forces working in tandem, but with the former in the dominant position. The further assault on the system in the 1980s and 1990s occurred in the context of a more regressive public mood and temper … and as part of the creation of a new and less inclusive crime narrative." (Garland, 2001, pp.53,72,73).
Although the moment of radical criminology was, in Garland's analysis, short, it was momentous in its impact although this impact was scarcely in the direction intended! The NDC, together with their American counterparts, mounted a scathing criticism of the criminal justice system and the prison in particular, pointing to its counter-productiveness and the utter failure of the rehabilitative ideal. That is as captured in the spirit of the ironies that I have outlined earlier. According to Garland the effect was together with other reformers to undermine the whole intellectual credibility of the penal-welfare basis of modern criminology. In doing this they played into the hand of the reactionary forces which followed them, thus from the 1980s onwards the political success of the New Right rejected the rehabilitative ideal, as they did the notion of social causes of crime, and replaced it with its successor, the 'crime-control complex' with its stress on retribution and incapacitation in prisons and situational crime prevention.
Wait a Moment
My problem with Garland's revisionist history of critical criminology is that it simply does not correspond to reality. The critical tradition both in theory and research palpably flourishes. Textbooks in theory - whatever their political persuasion - all contain chapters on critical criminology and its present developments, whilst the radical textbooks (and there are very many of them) have a standard progression through the canon of criminological theory with critical criminology as the culmination. It is true that varieties of neo-liberal criminology (eg Felson, Clarke and Wilson) have emerged in the last fifteen years, but they are still a minor part of academic criminology, are likely to remain so and have a correspondingly small (and much demeaned) role in the textbooks. To this Garland would argue that:
"Not all criminology is consonant with, or relevant to, the character of contemporary social life. There is a huge inertia built into academic production which ensures the theoretical traditions continue long after they cease to connect to 'the real world'. I have focused upon the criminologies of everyday life because I believe they do connect to the present in an interesting and revealing way." (1999, p.362).
So much of the academic tradition does not connect. I cannot see how this is true of critical criminology either politically or in terms of its relationship to "the grain" of everyday life. The ten ironies I have listed would seem to me to be as important today as they ever were, in fact all the more so with the growth of the American gulag, the penchant for the scapegoating of the poor, the immigrant and the drug user, and the way in which crime control has become a major currency of politics. As for everyday life, Garland may believe that the rational choice and routine activities theories go with the grain of everyday life in late modernity - indeed his most recent book, The Culture of Control, uses such theories as its explanatory basis - but such neo-liberal discourses capture only a limited part of that reality. Contrast this with a critical criminology which insists that out there, in a world of broken narratives where economic and ontological insecurity abounds, where crime, far from being mundane and calculative, is transgressive and sensual, where punishment is frequently vituperative and vindictive and where society, rather than being a one-dimensional scenario of rational contractual atoms, is divisive, contested, contradictory and ironic (see Young, forthcoming; Hayward, 2002).
Finally, as to the role of critical criminology as the midwife to reaction. The criticisms evolved in the seventies were directed against the fact that prisons failed to rehabilitate and that a quasi-medical model of rehabilitation was growing with notions of 'treating' offenders and involving indeterminate sentences to be served until 'cure' was achieved. That is, it was directed against the failure of the prisons and fake notions of rehabilitation. These arguments were not an argument against rehabilitation per se, although, as was constantly indicated, if the conditions which led to crime were ameliorated there would be considerably less people in prison needing rehabilitation. That right wing commentators seized upon the obvious inadequacies of the prison was scarcely the 'fault' of critical criminology. The spin they put on the facts of failure was a product of New Right thinking, not of criminological radicals. As it is the extensive expansion in recent years of quasi-medical treatment programmes for drug abuse and various offences, the massive rise of cognitive behavioural programmes within prisons (see Carlen, 2002) and the concomitant emergence of individual positivism in the shape of psychological criminology in the academy not only invalidates Garland's claim of a transition away from penal-welfarism but underscores the need for a renewal of critique on precisely the same lines as before.
The Flourishing of Critical Criminology
My argument so far is that critical criminology in this age of the Gulag and the punitive turn is massively needed, it is the counter-voice to neo-liberalism and conservatism. And what is more critical criminology is flourishing. The most incisive recent textbooks are all in this genre, witness Mark Lanier and Stuart Henry's Essential Criminology (1998), René van Swaaningen's Critical Criminology: Visions from Europe (1997), John Lea's Crime and Late Modernity (2002), Rob White and Fiona Haines' Crime and Criminology (2000), Gregg Barak's Integrating Criminologies (1998), John Tierney's Criminology: Theory and Context (1996), Wayne Morrison's Theoretical Criminology: From Modernity to Post-Modernism (1995), Roger Matthews' Doing Time (1999), Russell Hogg and Dave Brown's Rethinking Law and Order (1998), Jayne Mooney's Gender, Violence and the Social Order (2000) and Ian Taylor's Crime in Context (1999). It has produced the most exciting ethnography and critique of the last ten years. Read Phillipe Bourgois' 'Just Another Night in the Shooting Gallery' (1998), Jeff Ferrell's 'Criminological Verstehen: Inside the Immediacy of Crime' (1997), Lois Wacquant's Les Prisons de la Misère, Nils Christie's Crime Control as Industry (2000), Vincenzo Ruggiero's Crime and Markets (2000), Damian Zaitch's (2001) wonderful study of Colombian cocaine dealing in Rotterdam, Pat Carlen's Jigsaw (1996), or look at Walter DeKeseredy and his associates' remarkable study of crime and poverty in a Canadian public housing estate with its acute awareness of gender and ethnicity (DeKeseredy et al, forthcoming). Critical criminology has been at the cutting edge of the discipline and is international in its scope, think of the burgeoning literature on governmentality (eg Stenson, 1998; Rose, 2000; O'Malley, 1999), on masculinity (Jefferson, 2002; Hall, 2002; Messerschmidt, 2000), Phil Scraton's intrepid investigative criminology in the harrowing Hillsborough: The Truth (2000), the opening up of the crime prevention discourses to critical analysis by Adam Cawford (1998) and Gordon Hughes (1998), the development of work on youth and justice by John Muncie (1999), Shahid Alvi (2000) and John Pitts (2001), Ruth Jamieson's pioneering work on the criminology of war (1998, 1999), or the extraordinary flourishing of cultural criminology (Ferrell et al 2001; Ferrell and Saunders, 1995; Presdee, 2000).
What is of course true, is that the vast expansion of the criminal justice system has resulted in a plethora of evaluative studies, research programmes and vocational courses (see Robinson, 2001) which have generated a substantial institutional base for administrative criminology. All of this further underscores the necessity of a critical voice to counter the minimalist, theoretical 'noise' constantly arising from out of the crime control complex.
The Illegitimacy of Critique
There are, however, writers who maintain that late modernity has brought with it a new predicament wherein the space for fundamental critique is rapidly shrinking. George Pavlich, for example, in an article entitled 'Criticism and Criminology: In search of Legitimacy' (1999), maintains that criticism within critical criminology has been subject to a diluting pragmatism, interesting itself in matters of crime control and technical efficiency, on the one hand, or basing itself on emancipatory rhetoric with an untenable belief in universal 'progress' and the possibilities of a utopian future, on the other. For the uncertainties of postmodern times do not allow us to securely appeal to such emancipatory strategies and when these are absent the danger is that recourse will be made to the technical and the administrative which merely aids the system to work and to continue the status quo. Pavlich, therefore, proposes that to make a critique which has legitimacy we must reject both of these strategies.
So here we are with Phillipe Rushton on the BBC this morning as I shave, telling us how crime and IQ will soon be located in a specific gene and the gene relates to race, whilst yesterday ex-Commissioner Kerik is claiming on national TV the crime drop in New York City as his own, and advising London in the spirit of zero-tolerance to come down heavy on cannabis users, whilst Mayor Ken Livingstone is demanding that the city massively ups its police force to New York levels in order to "win the fight against crime", whilst in the south of the city police are tearing up their rule books and specifically targeting black youth with or without suspicion. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a Gulag of an immense size and historical significance has emerged, President Bush II has conflated the war against terror, the war against crime and the war against drugs, whilst vicious farce is being enacted in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Yet amidst all of this we are advised that in order to maintain the legitimacy of our critique we should abstain from narratives which are either emancipatory or follow the "performance logic of techno-administrative reasoning" (ibid, p.42). Instead we are advised, via Lyotard, to use "paralogic" - literally that which is against reason. For "paralogy always gestures towards the unknown; it licenses attempts to find new ideas, to formulate new links within language that yield novel enunciation's" (ibid., p.43). If this is not too clear Pavlich further elaborates:
"Yet what critical genres might parology legitimate? No doubt this question would require more detailed elaboration in the context of 'crime-related' discourses than is possible here. However, the concept implies multiple critical practices bound neither to emancipation metanarratives nor to technical formulations of crime".
He clarifies this even further:
"the point of critique is not to discover the essential or necessary unity of given historical limits; rather, its role is to focus on contingent processes that render such limited 'realities' possible. Accordingly, criticism need not entail the practice of comparing, or judging local 'realities' with 'universal' principles - rather it could develop an ethos that continuously directs itself to absence, the otherness which makes possible the so-called 'realities' contained by given historical limits." (ibid., p.43).
Thus the critical criminologist is advised to dig a deep and impenetrable moat around the ivory tower of the academy within which the "exuberant" discourses of unreason reign - whilst outside a plethora of cruel and insistent practices occur which systematically limit human emancipation whilst being justified by false technical and administrative reasons.
In fact it is important, if we are to critique the practices of the present day system, to demonstrate their technical and administrative incompetence - the exposure of the irony depends on this. It is true, however, that technical critique alone leads to the danger of an autopoetic theory which is internally self-referring and may function just to reduce tension in the system (see Lea, 1998). Hence the need for this critique to be conducted in the context of an emancipatory discourse. It is unclear how paralogic can conceivably provide a methodology by which we can tie the immediate and the technical to the long term and the transformative in a way which effectively expedites reform yet does not succumb to the perils of utopian blueprints. This reduces to two problems: the problem of transformation and the problem of a guiding narrative. The answer to the first question is aided by consideration of the work of Nancy Fraser, the second by reference to Zygmunt Bauman, the major theorist of late/post, or, as he would have it, liquid modernity. To outline this it is necessary to situate the problems of transformation and change and their relationship to crime and punishment within the changed social terrain within which we now live.
The Coordinates of Order:
Class and Identity in the Late Modernity
At this point before mapping the terrain of late modernity I wish to briefly establish coordinates. Nancy Fraser in her influential Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the Post-Socialist Condition (1997) outlines two types of politics: those centring around distributive justice and those centring around the justice of recognition - that is class politics and identity politics. In The Exclusive Society (1999) I point to the two fundamental problems in a liberal democracy to be the need to distribute rewards fairly so as to encourage commitment to work within the division of labour and the need to encourage respect between individuals and groups so that the self-seeking individualism characteristic of a competitive society does not lead to a situation of war of all against all. Individuals must experience their rewards as fair and just and they must feel valued and respected.
Let us develop the distinction between the sphere of distribution and that of recognition. Central to distributive justice is the notion of fairness of reward and in developed societies this entails a meritocracy, that is where merit is matched to reward. Justice of recognition involves the notion of respect and status allocated to all but if we stretch the concept a little further: it also involves the notion of the level of esteem or social status being related justly. Indeed both the discourses of distributive justice and recognition have the notion of a basic equality (all must receive a base level of reward as part of being citizens) but on top of this rather than a general equality of outcome: a hierarchy of reward and recognition dependant on the individual's achievements.
How does this help inform us as to the genesis of crime and punishment? Firstly, that a major cause of crime lies in deprivation that is, very frequently, the combination of feeling relatively deprived economically (which causes discontent) and misrecognized socially and politically (which causes disaffection). The classic combination is to be marginalized economically and treated as a second rate citizen on the street by the police. Secondly, a common argument is that widespread economic and ontological insecurity in the population engenders a punitive response to crime and deviancy (see for example Luttwak, 1995; Young, 2001).
As we shall see in the process of the transition from modernity to late modernity powerful currents shake the social structure transforming the nature of relative deprivation, causing new modes of misrecognition and exclusion, whilst at the same time being accompanied by widespread economic and ontological insecurity. The purchase of each of these currents impacts differentially throughout the social structure by each of the prime social axes of class, age, ethnicity and gender.
The Journey Into Late Modernity
The last third of the twentieth century has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the lives of citizens living in advanced industrial societies. The Golden Age of the post-war settlement with high employment, stable family structures, and consensual values underpinned by the safety net of the welfare state has been replaced by a world of structural unemployment, economic precariousness, a systematic cutting of welfare provisions and the growing instability of family life and interpersonal relations. And where there once was a consensus of value, there is now burgeoning pluralism and individualism (see Hobsbawm, 1994). A world of material and ontological security from cradle to grave is replaced by precariousness and uncertainty and where social commentators of the fifties and sixties berated the complacency of a comfortable 'never had it so good' generation, those of today talk of a risk society where social change becomes the central dynamo of existence and where anything might happen. As Anthony Giddens put it: "to live in the world produced by high modernity has the feeling of riding a juggernaut" (1991, p.28; see also Beck, 1992; Berman, 1983).
Such a change has been brought about by market forces which have systematically transformed both the sphere of production and consumption. This shift from Fordism to Post-Fordism involves the unravelling of the world of work where the primary labour market of secure employment and 'safe' careers shrinks, the secondary labour market of short-term contracts, flexibility and insecurity increases as does the growth of an underclass of the structurally unemployed.
Secondly, the world of leisure is transformed from one of mass basic consumption, to one where choice and preference is elevated to a major ideal and where the constant stress on immediacy, hedonism and self-actualisation has had a profound effect on late modern sensibilities (see Campbell, 1987; Featherstone, 1985). These changes both in work and leisure, characteristic of the late modern period, generate a situation of widespread relative deprivation and heightened individualism. Market forces generate a more unequal and less meritocratic society, market values encourage: an ethos of every person for themselves, together these create a combination which is severely criminogenic. Such a process is combined with a decline in the forces of informal social control, as communities are disintegrated by social mobility of them and left to decay as capital finds more profitable areas to invest and develop. At the same time, families are stressed and fragmented by the decline in communities systems of support, the reduction of state support and the more diverse pressures of work (see Currie, 1997; Wilson, 1996). Thus, as the pressures which lead to crime increase, the forces which attempt to control it decrease.
The journey into late modernity involves both a change in perceptions of the fairness of distributive justice and in the security of identity. There is a shift in relative deprivation from being a comparison between groups (what Runciman, 1966, calls 'fraternal' relative deprivation) to that which is between individuals (what Runciman terms 'egoistic' relative deprivation). The likely effect on crime is, I would suggest, to move from a pattern committing crimes outside of one's neighbourhood onto other richer people to committing crimes in an internecine way within one's neighbourhood. That is the frustrations generated by relative deprivation become focused inside the 'community' rather than, as formerly, projected out of it.
But it is also in the realm of identity that relative deprivation is increased and transformed. For here, on one side, you have raised expectations: the spin off of the consumer society is the market in lifestyles. On the other hand, both in work and in leisure, there has been a disembeddedness. That is identity is no longer secure; it is fragmentary and transitional - all of which is underscored by a culture of reflexivity which no longer takes the world for granted. The identity crisis permeates our society. As the security of the lifelong job, as the comfort of stability in marriage and relationship fade, as movement makes community a phantasmagoria where each unit of the structure stays in place but each individual occupant regularly moves, where the structure itself expands and transforms and where the habit of reflexivity itself makes choice part of everyday life and problematises the taken for granted - all of these things call into question the notion of a fixed, solid sense of self. Essentialism offers a panacea for this sense of disembeddedness.
The Identity Crisis and the Attractions of Essentialism
In The Exclusive Society I discuss the attractions of essentialism to the ontologically insecure and denigrated. To believe that one's culture, "race", gender or community has a fixed essence which is valorised and unchanging is, of course, by its very nature the answer to a feeling that the human condition is one of shifting sands, and that the social order is feckless and arbitrary. To successfully essentialise oneself it is of great purchase to negatively essentialise others. That is to ascribe to the other either features which lack one's own values (and solidity) or which are an inversion of one's own cherished beliefs about one's self. To seek identity for oneself, in an essentialist fashion, inevitably involves denying or denigrating the identity of others.
Crime and its control is a prime site for essentialisation. Who, by definition, could be a better candidate for such a negative 'othering' than the criminal and the culture that he or she is seen to live in? Thus the criminal underclass replete with single mothers and living in slum estates or ghettos, drug addicts committing crime to maintain their habits and the immigrants who commit crime to deceitfully enter the country and continue their lives of crime, in order to maintain themselves become the three major foci of emerging discourses around law and order - that is the welfare "scrounger", the "junkie", and the "immigrant".
This triptych of deviancy, each picture reflecting each other in a late modern portrait of degeneracy and despair, comes to dominate public discussion of social problems. As the discourse develops their ontologies become distinct and different from 'normal' people, their social norms absent or aberrant, their natures frequently racialised and rendered inferior. Crime a product of our society becomes separated from the social structure: it is viewed as a result of distinct aetiologies, it embodies differing values, it emanates from distinct and feared areas of the city and these areas that are contrasted with the organic community where social trust and harmony are seen to reside.
Nancy Fraser: Affirmative and Transformative Politics
The problem of crime is inevitably one of order, and the problem of order that of justice. To tackle predatory crime and punitive responses we must, therefore, involve the politics of distribution and the politics of recognition. We must, in short, intervene both upon a material and a symbolic level. Discussion of reform is usually concerned with the former for without some form of redistribution any considerable reduction in crime is unlikely. The significance of the symbolic level is less explored and has changed remarkably with the transition to late modernity. First of all a more individualistic society generates greater and greater demands for self-actualisation and recognition, secondly, the increased sense of disembeddedness makes, at the same time, a sense of secure identity more and more precarious, thirdly, a potent solution to this ontological uncertainty is that of essentialism, fourthly such a fake sense of solidity is more easily achieved by regaling others, lastly such a dehumanisation of others can be a potent facilitation both of crime (particularly violence) and a punitive attitude towards the criminal. It is therefore crucial that we attend to the problems of identity, arguing for policies which ensure a sense of self-worth and actualisation yet which do not rest upon the fake premises of essentialism where others are systematically denigrated and then abused.
Nancy Fraser in Justice Interruptus develops an extremely useful typology of the politics of reform based on the two dimensions of redistribution and recognition. Reform, she argues, must recognise the necessity of changes in both these areas assuaging both the failings of distributive justice and misrecognition and devaluation. But to this dichotomy she adds a further distinction: between the politics of affirmation and the politics of transformation. Affirmative politics merely involves the surface transfer of resources without changing the basic underlying divisions whereas transformative politics seek to eliminate the basic underlying structures of injustice (see Young, 1999; Mooney, 2000). Thus in the area of redistribution affirmative remedies involve, for example, coercing the underclass into the labour market at extremely low wages. Their underclass position is merely reproduced this time within the lower reaches of the market place (see Levitas, 1996). This dragooning of people from one category of exclusion to another ("getting the people to work", as the Social Exclusion Unit - 1999 - put it, with its cheerless double entendre) is experienced all too frequently not as inclusion but as exclusion, not as the 'free' sale of labour but as straightforward coercion. Relative deprivation would, of course, not be solved by such 'inclusionary' politics and the sources of discontent which are liable to generate high crime rates would be unabated. Transformative redistribution, on the other hand, would involve such measures as retraining so that jobs could be gained and then rewarded on a meritocratic basis - thus putting a genuine element of equality into equal opportunity policies, the recognition of non-paid work (eg child rearing, caring for ageing parents) as of vital importance for social reproduction, the creation of viable childcare infrastructures for women with children, and the enforcement of a minimum wage on a level which allows the individual an existence which is neither demeaning nor severely straitening in circumstance. Above all it would not fetishize paid work - it would not view such work as the vital prerequisite for full citizenship, for acceptance and inclusion in society.
An affirmative politics of recognition does not question the various essentialisms of difference. That is, in the case of conventional multiculturalism, what is stressed is the need for the positive recognition of various groups on equal terms, for example: Irish, African-Caribbean, Gays, Women, etc. In contrast, transformative politics seek to break down and destabilise and deconstruct the categories by questioning the very notion of fixed identity and essence. Thus the invented notion of tradition is challenged, the overlapping, interwoven nature of what are supposedly separate cultures stressed, and the ambiguity and blurred nature of boundaries emphasised. Diversity is encouraged and, where non-oppressive, celebrated, but difference is seen as a phenomenon of cultures in flux not essences which are fixed.
In the case of crime and punishment, the critique of essences both in criminal victimisation and in punishment is a high priority. The category of hate crimes must be widened out in the realisation that a considerable proportion of acts of violence involve vocabularies of motive which debase and dehumanise the victim (see I Young, 1990). Thus not only crimes against gays and blacks, but against women, the elderly, the poor etc. In terms of our response to crime it is vital that the essentialism which runs through the discourses about crime and its causes is thoroughly debunked. Important, here, is to confront and shatter the triptych which locates crime spatially and socially in three loci - the underclass, the drug user and the immigrant. Such a combination, portrayed as interdependent and very frequently racialised, is presented as the major source of crime and disorder in our society. Against this we must emphasise that crime occurs throughout the structure of society and that its origins lie not in a separate aetiology but in the structure of society and its core values. The identification of a distinct criminal class is an endeavour bound to failure.
Thus Fraser points us to the understanding that what may seem the most obvious of responses to a problem may result in the opposite and that what is seemingly progressive can be counterproductive. She indicates, if you want, ironies in social intervention. Let me conclude this section by briefly examining drug control. As is well documented, the Conservative, punitive, 'obvious' approach to illicit drug use raises drug prices, creates a base for organised crime, encourages dilution and adulteration of drugs, increases crime, violence and mortality. It generates, as critical criminology indicated, the irony in which the primary harm of drugs (the problem before intervention) is considerably less than the secondary harm of drugs (the problem after intervention). Let us turn now to medicalisation, a response which on the surface looks progressive and indeed is touted as the liberal alternative to the 'drug wars'. The irony here is the provision of a sick role model with a social script attached which predicts a perpetual problem of relapse is self-fulfilling. And indeed drugs clinics are scandalous for their recidivism rates and individuals in desperate social and personal predicaments queue up to take on the addict role. For the sick role provides an essence which gives a fake solidity or identity and a series of 'excuses' which absolves and distances the individual from his or her predicament (see Auld et al, 1986; Young, 1971b).
From a critical perspective, the first task is to deconstruct the legal-illegal division between psychoactive drugs and situate the effects and harm of drugs within social situations and predicaments. You cannot read the essence of a drug from a pharmacopoeia. The very same drugs can be a grave risk, good fun or a blessing depending on social context. Secondly, we must expose the wrong of punitive sanctions and the war against drugs whilst combating the essentialism of the medical approach. Then finally, we must turn to the social context focusing only on those drug users whose dire social predicament drives them to highly risky use. Here the task becomes to transform the social situation and involves the problematic that Fraser has developed. Namely that we oppose reforms whether punitive or medical which serve to capture the drug user in his or her role and social predicament and we support those which genuinely change the social predicament and de-essentialise drug use.
The Unfinishable: An Endless Narrative
I have pointed to the two major components of a transformative politics but this still leaves us the problem of the narrative which guides such a transformation. In the past emancipatory politics have set out endpoints, detailed utopias which are markers to where the programme seeks to arrive and sets itself at rest. The history of such social democratic and communist metanarratives has involved, invariably, the problem of what conceivably could be the endnote and what debatably is the compass of justice and, at worst, the enmeshment of such ideals in state bureaucracy and totalitarianism. Zygmunt Bauman has been centrally concerned with the concept of justice in contemporary times. He starts with his notion of postmodernity; for him it is not the end of modernity, but it is 'modernity without illusion'. Commentating on his change in position he writes:
"At the time that I wrote Socialism: The Active Utopia , something had broken once for all: the vision of socialism (or, for that matter, of the 'good society') as a state to be achieved, a state bound to become at some point 'the final state' of humanity. Instead, there emerged the vision of socialism (and more generally of utopia) as a horizon, constantly on the move, perpetually receding, but guiding the travel; or like a spike prodding the conscience, a nagging rebuke that cast complacency and self-adoration out of bounds and out of question. It was now the utopia itself, not the state of affairs it was meant to bring about, that bore the mark of eternity. Its attraction was not in the promise of rest, but in keeping humans forever on the move, in calling them to fight ever new injustices and to take the side of the successive echelons of the left behind, injured, humiliated." (Bauman and Tester, 2001, p.49).
He envisages instead an endless narrative, a project which is a continuous unfinishable process and a utopian ideal which is constantly contested, yet nags and persists, it is in his phrase a "knife pressed at the future":
"In our times, the concept of injustice is more hotly contested than at any other time in history. It prompts daily reconnaissance skirmishes and recognition wars on ever new fronts. No iniquity is likely to be accepted as 'part of life' for long and borne meekly and placidly. By proxy, also, the idea of justice has become hazier than ever before, and given the mind-boggling pace at which seemingly uncontroversial patterns are rebranded as manifestations of injustice and iniquity, few people would risk committing themselves to blueprints of the 'just society' in the sense of a society thoroughly cleansed of old injustices and giving birth to no new ones.
"This is one aspect of the emerging 'liquid modernity' which gives morality grounds for hope. Ever more forms of human misery are reclassified from 'necessary' into 'super-numerary' and excessive, and we all grow ever more impatient with everything so classified. Does this mean that we move closer to the state of 'ultimate justice'? … Today's justices tend to be tomorrow's injustices and this 'until-further-noticeness' is bound to mark them all. A just society as I understand it … a society perpetually vigilant for injustice and never sure that its arrangements are just enough … justice is a horizon which a just society tries to reach, a horizon which moves further away with every step forward that society makes. Insisting on taking such steps and not relenting in this insistence, come what may, are what make a society just." (ibid., pp.64-5).
The Necessity of Critique
David Matza in his pivotal book Becoming Deviant, published in 1969, which of all texts heralds the shift into late modernity, points to the need for 'naturalism'; the necessity of replacing the 'correctionalist' approach to deviance with an 'appreciative one': to be faithful to the nature of the phenomenon under study. And if one does this, he notes, rather than the social world seeming clear cut and delineated, "the distinction between deviant and conventional phenomena [is seen as] blurred, complicated and sometimes devious" (Op.cit., p.68). He uses two concepts to summarise the relationship between the conventional and the deviant: overlap and irony. Overlap stresses the ultimate convergence between the normatively good and the bad, between virtue and evil, the way that one often looks like the other, the way one runs into another in an unbroken narrative line, the way in which one conceals the other. Irony runs on from this, it is the inversion of the conventional view that over time good and evil run in separate sequences: whereas in fact vice can result from virtue and virtue from vice. "The key element is … inherent qualities of phenomena that despite their hidden nature, culminate in outcomes that mock the expected result …" (ibid., p.70).
I believe that recognition of the blurred, devious and ironic nature of reality - although true of all time, presents itself all the more clearly in late modernity where the shift and pluralism of values encourage the double take, threatening daily what Alfred Schutz called the 'taken for granted world of everyday life' (see Young, 1999). Further, that it is such a questioning of the solidity of the social world and the stated purposes of its institutions which comes close to what we mean by the word 'critical'. Zygmunt Bauman in recent interviews ponders on the nature of critical theory: "What I understand by that term is the kind of theorising which accepts that, first, 'things are not necessarily what they seem to be' and second that 'the world may be different from what it is' …". And Bauman is fiercely dismissive of those who would view human culture as a thing of inertia, the place of habit, routine, absence of reflection - a sort of stabilising 'preservative' of humanity. As we have seen, the taken for granted world begins to disintegrate in late modernity, reflex gives way to reflexivity. In contrast, he says: "Once you accept culture with its endemic restlessness and its inborn inclination to transcendence as the fundamental characteristic of the human mode of being, the idea of 'critical theory' appears pleonastic, like 'buttery butter' or 'metallic iron'. Theory which wants to be faithful and adequate to its object cannot but be 'critical'." (Bauman and Tester, 2001, p.33).
All good sociology is critical, as is all competent criminology. It is my belief that critical criminology is more relevant today than ever and that the critical attitude fits the experience of later modernity. If we return to the themes of the ten ironies it is striking how the problems faced in the 1970s are built larger today and how the concerns are more a harbinger of the present than a moment of the past. Every single one of the ironies, from the counterproductive nature of the prison to the role of stigmatisation and othering in law and order politics, are of immense relevance. We are privileged to work in an area which has its focus on the fundamental dislocations of justice that occur throughout our social order, a place of irony and contest, of vituperation and transgression. Those who would seek to marginalise critical criminology fail to comprehend its purchase on the grain of social reality, those in our own camp who would narrow their definition of the 'critical' to the sectarian or the esoteric, fail to understand the central position of critique as a counterbalance to neo-liberalism and its administrative discourses. Let us set about our task keeping in mind the urgency of opposition, yet with an eye for irony imbued, as always, with a sense of fun.
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